Our Top 5 Posts of February
Sat Mar 08, 2014
Resurgence Roundup, 3/7/14
Fri Mar 07, 2014
How to Replant a Church, Part 5: Rally Your Troops
Thu Mar 06, 2014
by Bubba Jennings
The 4 Pillars of Pastoral Work
Thu Mar 06, 2014
by Dave Bruskas
10 Ideas For Keeping Lent
Wed Mar 05, 2014
by Winfield Bevins
A Conversation with Worship Pastors on Missional Living
Donald Zimmerman (Living Stones – Reno, NV)
Joel Brown (Mars Hill – Seattle, WA)
Matt Stevens (Vintage 21 – Raleigh, NC)
Josh Dix (The Journey – St. Louis, MO)
Michael Bleecker (The Village – Dallas, TX)
Aaron Spiro (SOMA – Tacoma, WA)
This is the third installment of a four-part interview with several A29 worship pastors on our 4 distinctives and how they play out in different worship contexts: west coast & east coast, suburban & urban.
When discussing the corporate worship gathering in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul talks about having an awareness of nonbelievers in our midst. Most discuss this issue as though you have to choose between equipping the Christian and engaging the nonbeliever. Is there anything we can do as worship leaders to accomplish both? What are some things we can do to not alienate nonbelievers in our gatherings?
We don’t have weekly meetings where we draw on the white board and talk about being missional on Sunday. But, I do send text messages to my leaders with things like “Feel the weight of this” or “Don’t forget what God has given you and what He’s asked of you for these times” because you can’t be missional without the Spirit.
We always prioritize prayer even when more practice would help. If I have to choose, I’d rather be prepared here [points to the heart] in prayer than musically. We pray “Lord, there are unbelievers, believers who are absolutely nominal, as well as those that love you. Give them strength, save, and open eyes.”
Well, our large gatherings aren’t the primary avenue we do mission, but we’re trying to use normal language wherever we go—inside or outside—of the church gatherings. When we get together we try to be normal people, because honesty is one of the most beautiful things. We don’t shy away from anything in the gospel in our gatherings, because we treat that time as if we’re talking to the church.
Honesty is one of the most beautiful things.
With worship specifically, one thing we do is intentionally look for a variety of musical influences. We aren’t going for the “Christian sound” but instead having Christian theology in our music. Many of our musicians aren’t limited to just playing music in churches.
We start with Acts 17 where we see the arts intersecting with mission. Art isn’t inherently sinful; it’s where the heart that has created it was directed. Not every style of music is going to work in a corporate context but we do seek to have a variety of music styles that we worship God with in our different campuses. We also send our bands into the culture to play shows in clubs or outside venues in the right circumstances.
My job is not to make worship less emotional, dumb it down, or make the Gospel easier to swallow, but maybe I can make the Gospel clearer to understand. Maybe I can lead more intentionally, to remove anything from keeping that person from experiencing the impact of the truth of God. There are things you need to explain, both for the nonbelievers and the believers.
There are things you need to explain, both for the nonbelievers and the believers.
Do you guys spend time in services addressing the meaning of song lyrics or scriptural ties?
Sometimes. Leaders can fall into a trap that, in trying to be missional, they maybe will not sing a song about God that has certain language. There’s a difference between cultural language and Scriptural language. The key is knowing which parts of your gathering are worth the effort to teach through because it is foreign to non-believers.
Yeah I do. With the Scriptures on the screen they already have a place to start. A lot of my teaching happens in the little spaces in a song. So, before the fourth verse of In Christ Alone, I will talk about the return of Christ.
A lot of it is asking God where He wants the song to go.
Is that something you’re doing spontaneously or pre-planned? Or both?
It happens both ways. For example, Hillsong’s Hosanna. we did that for a long time and then I thought, “Does anybody know what Hosanna is?" So I told the band that we’re going to sing it once, and then I was going to talk about the meaning. This is the main reason I have the lyrics in front of me, a lot of guys take the stand off, but I keep it there so that I can read ahead and prep them for what they’re about to hear. We’re so inundated with melodies, words and empty slogans. A lot of it is asking God where He wants the song to go.
Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace has said that unbelievers are primarily affected by three things in corporate worship: authentic passion, love, and most importantly…the gospel. He goes on to say that we shouldn’t ignore non-believers but also should not allow them to “dictate our direction methods or values either." How do we find the balance?
Songs of worship should call nonbelievers to repentance. It should make claims about God and Jesus that might be offensive to them. I just want the music to be culturally engaging to the nonbelievers, and I want the gospel to be very clear and challenging and inviting.
We try to reemphasize every week over and over that we are a sent people. Services are the time where we really celebrate what God has done and equip people to go back out and keep being the church. Wherever we go, we are the church, and reminding the people of that breaks down the false idea that church is a place and not a people.
If we’re going to do a song that talks about the blood of the Lamb, we’re not going to shy away from that, but we’re not going to flippantly assume that everyone knows what we’re talking about. You can’t stop to explain everything in every song, but you need to identify what sort of moments need explaining for each week.
I want the music to be culturally engaging to the nonbelievers, and I want the gospel to be very clear, challenging, and inviting.
When we look at styles of music, production tools, slides and all that, we’re trying to think of how these things can be a bridge to the Gospel rather than a barrier. While the content will always be challenging, there’s no reason why a person couldn’t walk into a church service and feel comfortable with the format in which things are being presented.
Read the other parts in case you missed them, and up next is Spirit-filled living